Time capsule discovered during routine work on Abigail Adams monument
For 114 years, the Abigail Adams Cairn has been a city landmark, enjoyed by tourists and local residents alike. Not until this week, however, did anyone realize it held a secret.
While taking apart the cairn Tuesday morning, a masonry reconstruction team discovered a time capsule, presumably from the time the stone monument was built in 1896 to mark the spot where in 1775 the future first lady and 7-year-old John Quincy Adams watched the Battle of Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown from the Penn’s Hill promontory in what is now South Quincy.
The metal box found inside the stone structure is about the size of a shoe box and is soldered shut. It was in a brick-lined chamber in the center of the cairn, and was covered with a slab of granite.
As workers took apart the cairn, they came across several pieces of granite, but could tell one was different, said Dwayne Hayden of Phoenix Bay State Construction.
"We carefully chipped around it and realized it was hollow inside,'' he said.
"We knew this was big. It’s very unusual. We’re very fascinated to see something like this.''
Although The Patriot Ledger (then called the Quincy Daily Ledger) printed several articles about the cairn when it was built, there is no mention of the time capsule.
Along with the box, two pieces of metal were found in the cairn. One is a 1889 U.S. penny, the other is too corroded to make out, though it appears to be some sort of commemorative medal. The Ledger reported in 1896 that a military musician lost his marksman’s badge during the festivities.
Ed Fitzgerald, director of the Quincy Historical Society, guessed the time capsule contains everyday items such as coins, the day’s newspaper, and some kind of written statement.
"Usually it’s everyday materials; it’s not like we’re going to find the secret of the ages in there or anything like that,'' he said. "Purely things of historical interest, not anything of value. No one is going to put their diamonds in there.''
The time capsule was taken to the historical society at the Adams Academy on Hancock Street, where members will research it and determine the best way to open it. Fitzgerald predicted they’ll be ready to open it late this week or early next week.
The Abigail Adams Cairn was built June 17, 1896, by the Daughters of the American Revolution. It stands on Penn’s Hill, where Abigail Adams and the future sixth president watched the Revolutionary War battle. The cairn is at Franklin Street and Viden Road.
The cairn is being taken apart stone by stone so that it can be repaired and then put back together.
"What started as sort of a mundane project has now got some excitement to it,'' Mayor Thomas Koch said. "I’m anxious to see what kind of items would be included. It’s kind of fascinating.''
The Patriot Ledger